Escherichia coli, known as E. coli, refers to a large group of bacteria strains that can be both harmful and toxic. E. coli is commonly found in contaminated food and surfaces, water, the environment, and in the intestinal tract of people and animals. If untreated or not treated in time, some E. coli infections may lead to kidney damage, failure, and even death. Protect yourself from this foodborne and environmental bacteria by learning the symptoms of an E. coli infection, following food preparation guidelines, and paying attention to E. coli outbreaks. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have an E. coli infection, use the Ask MD tool, visit a physician, and ask to be tested with a stool sample test.